Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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Recent articles in Scientific American and elsewhere acknowledge what many climate realists have long said: climate change, whether human-caused or not, does not mean the end of human civilization or life on Earth. Instead, human life is getting better. In one essay, journalist Will Boisvert argues the climate influence of human greenhouse gas emissions isn’t catastrophic, writing:
How bad will climate change be? Not very. … While the climate upheaval will be large, the consequences for human well-being will be small. Looked at in the broader context of economic development, climate change will barely slow our progress in the effort to raise living standards.
Among the evidence Boisvert cites to prove his case is a Lancet study released in 2016 which the mainstream media portrayed as showing climate change would cause food shortages leading to 529,000 deaths each year from malnutrition and related diseases. What the study really showed is,
… in 2050 the world will be better fed than ever before. … [F]ood will be more abundant than now thanks to advances in agricultural productivity that will dwarf the effects of climate change, … rais[ing] per-capita food availability to 3,107 kilocalories per day, … substantially higher than the benchmarked 2010 level of 2,817 kilocalories—and for a much larger global population. The poorest countries will benefit most, with food availability rising 14 percent in Africa and Southeast Asia. [T]he study estimates that improved diets will save a net 1,348,000 lives per year in 2050.
In addition, Boisvert notes environmentalists link Syria’s civil war to the drought experienced in the region from 2006 through 2010, citing it as a harbinger of climate crises to come. Yet Israel suffered the same drought but overcame it, without a civil war, Boisvert points out. Technological breakthroughs in desalination allowed the country to reduce the energy needed to desalinate sea water by 50 percent, dramatically lowering the cost of doing so, with the result being “Israel’s water situation U-turned from worsening scarcity to sufficiency.”
A separate article in Scientific American discusses Harvard scientist Steven Pinker’s efforts to get environmentalists to admit the tremendous benefits delivered by modern technologies using fossil fuels.
“[I]ndustrialization has been good for humanity. It has fed billions, doubled lifespans, slashed extreme poverty, and, by replacing muscle with machinery, made it easier to end slavery, emancipate women, and educate children,” writes Pinker. “It has allowed people to read at night, live where they want, stay warm in winter, see the world, and multiply human contact. Any costs in pollution and habitat loss have to be weighed against these gifts. … Cleaner is better, but not at the expense of everything else in life.”
Citing Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index, Pinker writes,
The wealthier the country, on average, the cleaner its environment: the Nordic countries were cleanest; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and several sub-Saharan African countries, the most compromised. Two of the deadliest forms of pollution—contaminated drinking water and indoor cooking smoke—are afflictions of poor countries. But as poor countries have gotten richer in recent decades, they are escaping these blights: the proportion of the world’s population that drinks tainted water has fallen by five-eighths, the proportion breathing cooking smoke by a third.”
Another liberal who is breaking with Luddite/progressive ideological wing of contemporary liberalism that is coming to dominate discussions of climate change, often through actual bullying both on social media and on the street during protests, is Ted Nordhaus of the Breakthrough Institute. An blog post by Rob Bradley, Jr., founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, discusses a recent article by Nordhaus in Foreign Affairs, in which Nordhaus shows, using hard numbers not rhetoric, or appeals to consensus, morality and simple fairness demands we allow the impoverished in developing countries, “the benefits of fossil-fuel-driven development. Lower-emissions levels associated with curtailed development will not provide any meaningful amelioration of climate extremes for many decades to come, whereas the benefits that come with development will make those populations substantially more resilient to climate extremes right now.”
Decades before Pinker, Boisvert, and Nordhaus boldly and honestly acknowledged human ingenuity in developing new power sources and technologies to exploit them were benefiting humanity even as populations rise — making conditions better not worse — Julian Simon made similar points. A recent essay on The Master Resource blog, by Marian Tupy, explores and reconfirms Simon’s groundbreaking research.
Applying Simon’s work to the problem of climate change, climate realists have made these arguments for decades. To quote the immortal John McClane (Die Hard), “Welcome to the party, pal!”